Jack White’s latest solo album Boarding House Reach is a bold but failed experiment that tries blending industrial electronic with funky blues rock ‘n’ roll. With cringe-worthy moments, such as such as his attempts to rap, White’s skill on the guitar is the only thing allowing this LP to be called music.
Born John Anthony Gillis, singer and guitarist Jack White has been making music since the late ‘90s and is best to known for his early 2000s hits with The White Stripes. Since the band’s breakup in 2011, White has been involved in multiple other projects as well as solo material. Boarding House Reach, White’s third solo album, marks a confusing low and fruitless attempt to fuse White’s traditional rock ‘n’ roll style with experimental electronic. This failed genre splice, along with a variety of other baffling artistic choices, creates an album that is truly a struggle to finish.
From the get-go, White’s choice to incorporate glitchy electronic elements into his traditional bluesy rock sound takes a toll on the album’s effectiveness. While there are some good guitar riffs, solos and melodies in this project, absurd and strange synthesizers distract and take away from its successes. “Respect Commander” features what sounds like an early 2000s video game forcing itself to work. While the guitar solo at the end of the song shreds, the beeps and boops overshadows the beautiful moment, leaving a bad taste in listeners’ mouths.
White makes another massive blunder with “Ice Station Zebra,” a supposed lost song from his collaborative album with Jay-Z, where White attempts to rap. Separating each rambled verse with intense drum breakdowns, White passionately delivers lyrics such as, “Paying interest on the bills, I’m late / But I just can’t seem to remember the dates,” and, “We got fever and there ain’t no cure, girl / Take out insurance if you ain’t too sure, girl.” No passion in the world could make those bars sound like they weren’t written by a middle school SoundCloud rapper.
Boarding House Reach rambles on from this blunder, using every moment it gets to confuse the listener even further. The slow, somber song “Why Walk a Dog?” goes as far as to claim that owning a pet is an unjustifiable part of many people’s lives. Organ-esque keys hum behind White’s rant, a strange addition to an already cliché attempt at avant-garde art, destroying any possibility of White’s words being taken seriously.
Unsurprisingly, “Why Walk a Dog?” isn’t White’s only attempt to be edgy and strange for no reason. Boarding House Reach has a couple of songs that are too avant-garde to even call songs — the track “Abulia and Akrasia” is just a recording of a man reciting some poem with dramatic violin and brass melody, and “Everything You’ve Ever Learned” spends its first two minutes repeating the song’s title with a strange, robotic voice.
Boarding House Reach is possibly the worst composition by Jack White in his career. While it is apparent that White still knows his way around a guitar, it’s obvious he no longer wants to be a rock star. His tacky taste and experimental additions ultimately kill an album that could have pivoted his career.